Monday, December 22, 2008

On Hanukkah's First Night, A Chilling Tale

When he checked out of the Taj Mahal hotel at 3 a.m. on Nov. 26, Greg Morris had no inkling of the terror that would unfold just a few hours later in Mumbai, India.
Some of the terrorists - who went on a three-day rampage of killing that led to more than 170 deaths around Mumbai - had already checked into the hotel when Morris, a South African resident and cousin of local businessmen Mark and Len Wolman, left to take a flight home. He had been in India for two weeks on business for his company, Discovery Insurance.

”It was very much like 9/11,” he said. “This was a terrible attack on our world, against a functioning democracy that subscribes to all our beliefs.”

Morris is visiting the Wolmans this week, and attended the annual lighting of a large menorah on the first day of Hanukkah at the Holiday Inn in New London.

The wind played tricks during the ceremony, but finally Rabbi Avrohom Sternberg of Chabad of Eastern Connecticut was able to light the 15-foot-tall, 2,500-pound symbol of the Jewish holiday season.

The ceremony, said Rabbi Sternberg, was dedicated to the people who died in the attacks -- including six Jews, most prominently Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah Holtzberg, the directors of the Mumbai Jewish center called Chabad-Lubavitch.

”Everything that comes with a difficulty comes with a strong purpose,” said Rabbi Sternberg during the lighting ceremony. “It is cold outside tonight and it is dark ... yet this light will persevere and it will brighten up the darkness.”

Morris pointed out that India traditionally has been among the most hospitable places in the world for Jews and that the attacks haven't led to a mass migration of them out of the country. In fact, Morris said he plans to check into the Taj Mahal hotel -- which reopened Sunday -- the next time he's in Mumbai and that his family has been considering a move to India's financial capital.

Morris said he wouldn't want to give the terrorists the satisfaction of thinking they had changed anyone's mind about wanting to live or work in Mumbai.

”They have the worst traffic in the world, but Indians are incredibly nice people,” he said.

Morris knew Rabbi Holtzberg and spoke highly of his efforts to help Jews in India. But he said it is important to remember that, although Jews were apparently targeted, scores of other people from all walks of life died in the coordinated attack, which targeted 10 sites and lasted about 60 hours.

”More Muslims died in the attack than Jews,” Morris said.

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